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Opinion

Sport could be the answer to preventing violence against women

Gender Equality and Sport Culture in Australia

I have labelled myself as a feminist for the past decade. I am now twenty and my thoughts and views on the issue have not changed, in fact they have continued to expand and develop. I’d like to highlight the importance of sport in this current climate- in shaping community values, behaviour and attitudes towards gender equality.

There is a strong connection between the prevention of violence against women and gender equality particularly within fostering respectful relationships and employing inclusive, safe environments for women. The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women Article 3 states, “women are entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”. In order to properly exercise these rights, it is crucial to have conversations with young men about the importance of respecting women.

I want to emphasise whilst men are also subjected to violence, it is not to the same degree as women. Violence against women is a widespread problem and men have the power to change that. You see, violence against women is not just a woman’s issue, it is a man’s one too. It is a woman’s prerogative to live in a society that is inclusive and anti-discriminative of gender, an environment in which violence against women does not exist.

Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity; the patriarchal structure surrounding young men to behave in certain ways and gain acceptance into the infamous “boy club”. This is a normality in many different sport clubs across Australia. It is important to redefine what it means to be “masculine”, and that begins with a conversation on self-respect.

I recently watched a TED Talk called ‘”Locker room talk.” Says who?’ given by activist and motivational speaker Alexis Jones. Firstly, Jones spoke about the increasing need for participation from men since “the majority of these young men have never been invited to sit at our table”. This is a crucial first step in engaging young men and broadening their perception of masculinity- inside sport clubs is a prime place to begin.

Alexis raised three main points:

  • imbue these men with self-respect,
  • broaden a definition of confidence,
  • and work with them.

Hence, educating young men within the sport environment is an effective approach to preventing violence against women and strengthening gender equality.

Primary Prevention

With one in three women having experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them, we need to make primary prevention a priority. I truly believe that sport has the power to inspire young men and redefine the concept of masculinity to further prevent violence against women.

Since sport is so influential, elite athletes also have a significant role in being able to speak up and take action and positively inspire young men and women. With women’s sport getting more attention, it is great to see leaders, both male and female, act efficiently and address the issue that is violence against women.

By educating young men, transforming attitudes, creating inclusive environments and speaking out against violence of women in sport environments around Australia, we can as a society improve the lives of women and children.

As Jones says, “men are not simply the problem when it comes to violence against women, they’re also the cure”.

Author Indianna Dimmer is a White Ribbon Australia Sports Program intern.

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